Monday, October 11, 2010

local politics

Where I live--and probably where you live--condo complexes are requires to reserve a bunch of units for low income buyers. Here it's 10%. These buyers can get a unit for 1/3 to 1/4 of the price you'll pay.

City governments justify this by saying that otherwise many city employees won't be able to live here. And there's some truth to that where I live, since my town is pretty affluent, with its schools ranked among the top 100 in the country.

Here's a letter I wrote to a local paper about this (I erred on the side of caution in describing how big a break low income buyers get, but since found that they get a much sweeter deal than I'd surmised):

Curse of the BMRs

Dear editor: Every new housing development is required to provide a bunch of Below Market Rate (BMR) units. They may go for half the price of their neighbors’ units. Cities say this enables lower income government workers to live here. And so it may. But it also puts middle class homeowners cheek to jowl with people who may neither recognize nor respect the consideration middle class people commonly accord each other, such as quieting down after 10pm on weekday nights, and following homeowners association rules in general.

Worse yet, BMR homeowners oppose doing anything that costs money. Right now, for example, condo complexes around the Bay Area need earthquake retrofits—especially ones with condos built over garages. The retrofits typically cost around $10,000 per unit. And since such expenditures must be approved by a 2/3 majority, BMR homeowners are often able to block such projects, thus endangering the investments and even the lives of their neighbors.

In our complex this is further complicated by the fact that many BMRs are owned by folks who grew up in the Soviet Union—and they brought with them the kind of anti-authoritarian paranoia that was a survival trait there. They’ve mounted a frenzied campaign against our earthquake retrofit project, and may well prevent us from getting the needed supermajority vote.

I just wish the geniuses who invented the BMR regulations had to live here and personally experience the consequences of their social engineering.


That was several weeks ago. Then I attended a meeting in our complex of a homeowners' group promoting us getting an earthquake retrofit and discovered that several low-income and Russian homeowners had complained to members of the board of directors about my letter.

But I hold no position--elected or otherwise--in our complex's government, though my spouse is on the board. And you can see that nowhere in the letter did I even name the complex, or claim that I spoke for anyone but myself.

And one of the other people on the committee took the occasion to read me the riot act about the letter you just read, going so far as to call me a racist. She was practically sputtering. I said "Racist? Just how would that work?" And she realized at least that she couldn't call me that, since "Russian" isn't a race. And neither is "poor."

The incident reminded me that an unspoken liberal doctrine holds that we're all the same, regardless of ethnicity or class. We all hold the same values, we all have the same crime rate, And if we don't, it's the fault of white middle class people--and cops who arrest nonwhites disproportionately.

This isn't a sociological observation--it's an article of faith. And I dared to violate that article by stating what anyone with eyes and a functioning brain can easily observe.

And in accordance with this being an article of faith, this lady showed no interest in debating my points. She Knew I was Wrong, and her only obligation was to read me the riot act for being Wrong.

As always, I point out that the other side is no better. A guy at church I've known for decades snorted derisively when I stated that Obama's a centrist. He Knows that Obama is a Socialist. That this guy has a college degree. But again these doctrinaire views of both sides' partisans are articles of faith, and thus not to be questioned or debated.

Side note: I just spent three weeks camping around the Southwest with a small group that included three people who were ethnically Russian. The only Russians I have something against are the lower class ones who got visas, I suspect, through bribery of Russian officials.

If you don't live in a condo complex, or live somewhere where they don't require BMRs, and/or don't have many neighbors whose ethnic/class background leads to them being less than wonderful neighbors, this is less relevant, of course. But even so if you dare to express yourself independently you may well get people shouting at you angrily--and treating your ideas with such contempt as to preclude deigning to even discuss them with you.

So it behooves you to prepare yourself for this mentally, because it's hard to anyone to think well when someone's shouting at you. Do your thinking beforehand.

No comments: